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Cultural Information - Zimbabwe

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Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

In a business setting, when you first meet someone, formal and informal ways of greetings are a handshake with the words good morning/afternoon. At the beginning of a relationship, one is expected to give one’s name at first meeting and talk about your business interests and purpose of meeting. Usually, people will ask you; they want to know more about you before going into any form of relationship.

Obviously, humour comes in after you know someone quite well and not at first meeting. Family matters are not discussed at the first business meeting.

DO NOT talk politics in business situations, you are better advised to keep out of it for now. Keep your opinions to yourself. "Personal" questions include income, age, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. They will ask you the above including how much your car costs or your watch or dress, but usually in a social setting.

Canadian Perspective:

Zimbabweans are generally very polite, welcoming, respectful, and slightly formal. Conversation usually flows quite easily, with a minimum of topics that might cause offence. Common topics of conversation are work, family and where you/they come from. Humour should be introduced cautiously at first because the culture is more formal and can be sensitive to issues of (lack of) respect.

If you are meeting someone for the first time within a work environment, work and current affairs are likely to be the main conversational topics. However, if the context for the first meeting is personal, the conversation may move into the topic of family and other personal circumstances. It is customary to use people’s titles (Mr., Dr., Mrs.) on first meetings—and especially if they are older or more senior than you.

It is common to ask Zimbabweans what part of the country they come from—this is an important part of how they identify themselves to each other. Their home area helps to identify their clan, language, and customs, and in some cases their politics. They will likely be interested in finding out where (what part of the city) you live. While it can be hard to avoid the question, neighbourhood is often an indicator of your relative wealth.

In general, politics is a subject of great interest to everyone—but it is best to appear non-partisan until your social relations are more solidified and trusted. In the cities, the majority of people support the opposition party. Learn what people are feeling and thinking about current political crises in Zimbabwe by taking a neutral stand and asking questions. They will usually let you know—some more directly than others.

Be sensitive to the fact that most Zimbabweans are Christians and that religion holds a significant place in their lives. When talking about family, you should also be conscious of the fact that many Zimbabweans have recently lost at least one family member to AIDS. And always be sensitive to the economic gulf that exists between expatriates with access to foreign currency and most Zimbabweans. More than anything else, this can become the cause of resentment and mistrust.

Zimbabweans are generally extremely friendly and welcoming and you should have no problem feeling relaxed and comfortable relatively quickly.

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Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

In a business setting, a sense of space is as important as is in Canada. Business meetings are strictly by appointment and one is expected to be punctual though the host may delay meeting you. For example, when going to meet a General Manager of a corporation, you would present yourself at his personal secretary (no handshake) but when ushered into the General Manager’s office, you would give him/her a handshake and he will point a seat for you. At first meeting, you will have to address people as Mr or Mrs or Dr. and perhaps in a second or third meeting, depending on each other’s level of comfort, resort to first name basis. It is customary to shake hands with both men and women but no kissing on the cheek at first meeting. With the opposite gender, no hands, especially with elderly and or married individuals.

Use of first names to anyone older or senior is unacceptable; it is considered disrespectful, even in a business setting. When greeting, do not keep your hands in your pocket and show respect by standing up. Likewise, remove your hat when talking to people or entering someone’s office.

Eye contact is important in a business setting. While talking, there is strictly no touching of hands, no kissing on the cheek. After the meeting, it is courteous to thank the host and give a handshake. They will escort you to the exit door.

Meeting someone for the first time in a social setting is slightly different from a business meeting. People tend to stand close to someone and eye contact is not as important. Some people are generally not comfortable when someone constantly looks them in the eye. They will feel like you are suspecting them of something if you maintain eye contact without interruption.

Frowning is considered rude; don’t speak with hands in your pocket or give people your back. When visiting someone at their house, knock and wait for someone to come and open the door for you. You will then be ushered to a seat. You do not need to remove your shoes. No pets allowed in the house.

Canadian Perspective:

A simple handshake and friendly smile, a general "how are you?" is good on the first meeting. Friends and acquaintances will often use a familiar three-part African handshake, which lacks the formality of the traditional handshake used in Canada. Direct eye to eye contact is usually acceptable. It confirms your friendly position and intentions. A person of lower social or economic status (e.g. domestic workers) will more likely behave in a demure manner, offer less eye contact, and be more reserved, especially if you are white.

Sensitivity to personal space would be fairly comparable to your experience in Canada, although men are generally more comfortable with touching each other. The boundaries of personal space are reduced as familiarity grows. Zimbabweans are conscious of status and respect, and superiors and elders are accorded greater personal space.

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Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Showing affection (kissing) in public may embarrass the other person in front of the community, especially in the rural areas. We normally reserve that to our house but it is perfectly normal to kiss when dropping off a spouse or meeting him/her. Holding hands is okay. Do not show your emotions in public.

Reactions to laughing, crying, fainting or blushing... is NORMAL. Usually boys don’t cry in public.

Canadian Perspective:

Public displays of anger are generally not the norm. Public displays of grief or of affection are more common and more acceptable.

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Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

Appropriate dress differs between workplaces but it is important to dress smartly as you will be judged based on your dress code. DO NOT under-dress in work places, especially if you are a female. Deadlines, productivity and punctuality are part of the assessment process in a work place. Usually, these measures are agreed upon at the start of a job. If you are going to be late or absent, it is important that you inform your superiors or your secretary. Normal working hours are between 8 am and 5 pm with an hour lunch at 1 pm. If you hold a senior position, i.e., management position, you may be expected to work longer hours but not to claim overtime.

For social appointments, punctuality or even non-appearance is not a big deal. A person will generally not even be bothered to apologize for failing to make it to an appointment.

Canadian Perspective:

Workplace dress is generally formal—especially in the office environment. Women almost always wear dresses/skirts, though pantsuits are becoming more common among younger women. Men will usually wear a pressed shirt, a tie and possibly a jacket.

In general, people make every effort to be as well dressed as possible in public—according to their means. Even if clothing is obviously well worn, or even frayed, it will nevertheless be business-like and well-pressed. It is important to look employed (where unemployment is as high as 70%). This is not to say that people never dress ’down’. "Smart casual" is often worn for evening outings, and jeans on the weekends. Clothing styles are conservative. Loud, colourful, revealing and attention grabbing clothing styles are not common. In rural communities, dress for women is more conservative still.

Pay attention to how others are addressing colleagues or supervisors as this varies between work environments. It is best at first to err on the side of formality, especially with elders and superiors, and to address them by their title (Dr, Mrs, Miss, Mr.). The term "Ms" is not in common use in Zimbabwe. Colleagues and peers will usually address each other by their first names.

Most people endeavour to be punctual, although the approach to time is somewhat looser than in North America. However, transportation problems, communication problems, family crises/deaths/illnesses, poverty, and other problems can contribute to difficulties with absenteeism, punctuality, productivity, and the successful meeting of deadlines. In our experience, Zimbabweans were hard working and dedicated employees.

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Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

A superior is expected to lead by example, giving direction and guidance to subordinates. Education and experience are key to gaining respect and support from subordinates. To be successful in a managerial position and or working with a local counterpart, you will need cooperation and support from the local professionals.

Canadian Perspective:

It is very difficult to know positively how your staff views you. There is an enormous level of respect afforded to those higher up in the workplace hierarchy—especially those in managerial and directorship positions. This respect at times might also be perceived as subservient behaviour. Similarly, there is a fairly high level of deference towards expats, particularly if they’re white. This may be respect, if genuinely felt, or complacency, if not genuinely felt but, but it’s nevertheless considered obligatory. It is a rare to find a Zimbabwean who will directly raise a concern or problem with their superior.

Leadership, education, experience, fairness, industriousness and personableness would all be considered important qualities in how a local manager might be regarded. Nevertheless, a fairly high level of regard for management is expected and demanded. However one is regarded, it will not be openly expressed, but it may impact on performance.

More influential sometimes are the relationships defined by social position, which operate asynchronously to the workplace hierarchy. These relations can take precedence and will not be immediately obvious. An expat in a supervisory position, who is not the senior manager may find his/her staff to be more responsive to the local senior manager—who may make demands of either a work or personal nature. The sense of obligation to the local senior manager who is their superior both in work and in society will be substantially stronger than it will be to you. Employees may also be expected to perform errands for other more elder or senior staff members—even if they aren’t their supervisors. The complexity of these relationships will only bear themselves out over time and will reflect the unique configuration of individuals in any particular office.

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Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

A bottom-up approach to management is practised in most public organizations. Diplomacy will go a long way; local counterparts may covet authority and so portraying yourself more as a facilitator will help you. Let it appear like ideas are coming from a team rather than from you. Have clear objectives; encourage stakeholder participation; regular meetings to just make sure everyone is aboard; issues may be brewing and yet they say nothing to you. People will say "YES" when they don’t mean it; gossip may be what runs the office.

Be wary of confidentiality; trust may be interpreted differently from what you are used to; TRUST BUT CHECK. Corruption is rampant among "professionals", especially for donor- funded projects. Local counterparts will never criticize you in your presence or in public. If you happen to be working with your partner, i.e., husband or wife at the same institution, the locals will not be able to distinguish you as separate individuals professionally because you are husband and wife. Your secretary or personal assistant is your point person. Listen to them but again, use your personal judgement. They are likely to know more of what is happening with your subordinates.

Canadian Perspective:

Decisions are generally taken by the most senior personnel, and they are also responsible for generating and putting forward ideas. Consultative or consensus decision-making is not the norm. Frequently, workers are most comfortable making a decision if it has already been endorsed from above, and may have little experience in taking responsibility for independent analysis or action. This is true even of those occupying ’middle’ management or supervisory positions. It is acceptable to go to your immediate supervisor for answers or feedback. This is recommended in fact. Failing to consult with supervisors may create impressions of insubordination, particularly if it is seen to encroach on their territory.

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Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:

Gender: Women have an active role in raising families and in the rural areas they work in the fields. In urban centres, they have an active role in the government, politics and economy and bring a family perspective to the national level. Since independence in 1980, the government has taken a deliberate stance to promote equality of sexes through affirmative action and equal rights and women are encouraged to be active participants in work places.

Two deeply rooted cultural values are great hospitality and "decent" dress for women.

Religion: Religion (Christian (25%), indigenous beliefs (24%), Muslim and other (1%)). There is freedom of association. Superstition and witchcraft are philosophical beliefs that are commonly held among Zimbabweans of all religions.

Religion has no role in work places.

Class: Zimbabwe, being a former British Colony, the class structure remains very present. People’s behaviour differs with different classes (workers, middle class and upper class); e.g. interaction differs. The rich and educated know more and claim to deserve the best by default!!. Social classes manifest themselves in workplaces such that people of the same class have respect for each other but less so for their subordinates.

Ethnicity: This is based on historical tribal lines and languages (dialects). Languages: English (official), Shona, Karanga, Manyika and Ndebele and numerous, minor tribal dialects. Although evident and important, it is only pronounced in political spheres and not in work places.

Note: the elderly know more and deserve respect.

Canadian Perspective:

Gender: Zimbabwe is very male-centred—within the household and society at large. While the AIDS pandemic has promoted awareness that a shift is required in gender relations, this will take a long time to effect. The attachment to "custom" is particularly strong here. Women have very limited access to decision-making positions and have very limited economic power. In social relations, their influence is used indirectly only. While women have some legal rights, these are rarely exercised (e.g. in family law) because of lack of awareness of rights, lack of access to the law, and—most importantly—the profound lack of social support for them to exercise these rights. While fewer men are marrying more than one wife, casual sex and long-term extra- marital girlfriends are still quite common. Sexual harassment at work can be a major problem, which women are reluctant to confront in the face of the high rate of unemployment.

Religion: People are very religious and Christianity is the dominant faith. In addition to the major Christian denominations (e.g. Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian, etc.) there is a significant, and growing number of adherents to populist forms of Christianity such as Apostolic, Pentecostal and Assemblies of God—of which there are many varieties. Many of these adherents avoid eating pork. Meetings and gatherings often commence with an opening prayer.

Fused with Christian beliefs are strong ties to traditional belief systems involving consultations with ancestral spirits and employing the powers of the nyanga (or ’witch doctor’). Personal disasters are often attributed to jealous neighbours who are thought to have purchased a spell ("muti"—medicine) from the nyanga. The problem is resolved by purchasing an antidote from a nyanga.

Class: Class is a concept mixed up with contemporary trappings of political power and wealth versus traditional sources of power and wealth. In relationship to the means of production, the white population unquestionably dominates the ownership of the industrial and service sectors. Secondarily, there are those of south Asian descent who play an important role in the retail and service sectors. Since independence in 1980, this has been gradually changing and increasing numbers of local black persons are assuming important roles in these sectors.

Unfortunately, the space between business and politics is extremely grey and important members of the black business elite are either actively involved in politics or are closely linked with friends and family who are. Opportunity is also a function of membership in the ruling political party which has had a thorough stranglehold at all political levels. While ostensibly a democratic country, in reality Zimbabwe has been a de facto one-party state. This is currently under attack. Whether real change is in the offing remains to be seen.

The gulf between the very wealthy and very poor is enormous and this gap has been increasing dramatically due to political and economic circumstances. While wealth may appear to be legitimately claimed through black empowerment, business ownership and entrepreneurial initiative, real access to wealth and opportunity is fundamentally linked to family ties, other personal connections or membership and stature in the ruling party.

Despite a certain cynicism toward these conditions, it remains the aspiration (mostly unrealized) of most Zimbabweans to move beyond their poor circumstances and attain a more middle class existence.

Ethnicity: There are two local dominant ethnic groups in Zimbabwe: the Shona and the Ndebele. There are several other smaller ethnic groups which do not have the same level of influence on the social and political scene. The other significant group is the whites—which historically originated from Britain—but during the 50’s and 60’s increasingly represented people from many parts of Europe. The white population constitutes less than one per cent or the population—yet as noted above—has played a significant role in the Zimbabwean economy from farming to industrial manufacturing.

The Shona are the most populous ethnic group, inhabiting the largest geographic space and are also dominant within the ruling political party (ZANU-PF). The Ndebele, historical rivals of the Shona, live primarily in the south and south-west. This part of the country is economically marginalized and subject to frequent droughts. Support for economic development has been limited.

In urban areas, on a day-to-day interpersonal basis, ethnic and historical political differences between the Shona and Ndebele are often not an issue and social relations are good. In contemporary Zimbabwe, under current circumstances of economic decline and demise of the ruling party there is a high level of sympathy amongst Zimbabweans and both the Shona and the Ndebele are represented in the opposition MDC party. However, the Ndebele have suffered from gross human rights violations after Independence as well as in the more recent political violence and they continue to seek resolution of these issues.

Gender, class, religion, and ethnicity have a complex influence on the workplace which must be understood in order to make sense of the dynamics of workplace behaviour and relationships.

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Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It is important to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business. A personal relationship helps build confidence and trust which are vitally important for the success of any business venture or collaboration. Clients prefer to develop trust in you before getting deeply involved with you. To them you are a stranger and perhaps have some personal motive or hope for personal gain. The easiest way to establish a solid relationship is to be honest and show respect. Authoritarian attitudes with subordinates will serve to make your experiences miserable. Develop an atmosphere where colleagues feel you are part of them in one big family.

Invitation to dinner: arrive on time or slightly late. Don’t bring food, you may bring a wine if you wish but it is not expected. If you are invited and you dine out, generally the person who invited you will pay. Funny enough, there may be an expectation that you should pay, as you are considered rich and therefore have plenty of money!!! It is expected after a visit to someone’s residence for dinner that you simply thank the host. If you choose to bring a gift (one from your country would be much appreciated), it is expected that gifts will be opened in the presence of the giver and thank them, show appreciation, say a few words of thanks/praise. Gifts are received with both hands or with the right hand. Ideally you would clap hands first before receiving the gift. Taboo gifts are the "under-clothes".

If you an unable to make it to an invitation thank the person for inviting you first and then give a reasonable excuse for not being able to attend.

Canadian Perspective:

A cordial and friendly relationship helps to build trust and effective business relationships. Usually it is sufficient to ask how the person is, and how their family is doing before getting down to work, but taking the time to build a personal relationship is invariably time well invested.

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Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

It is important to act professionally at work. The normal practice is equal opportunity for everyone and everything is based on merit. DO NOT give preferential treatment to colleagues and friends at work. If there is a sense of favouritism at a work place, there is likely to be resentment. Colleagues and employees are fully aware that there should be no favouritism at work.

However, this is not to say that they will not try their luck. Yes they will make attempts to sway your decisions in their favour and especially at the beginning when you are still not familiar with the practices and behaviour of subordinates. Granting of special privileges must be in consultation with the human resources of the organization. Hiring of friends or family can be tricky and create resentment. Hiring should be on merit and in most cases handled by the human resources person in a professional manner. Never instruct human resources to hire your relative and or friend. At most, you may suggest they interview the candidate and you need to be at arms length with the process.

Canadian Perspective:

This is a very touchy subject. Yes, special favours/considerations may be expected but they should be avoided. Colleagues (and others) tend to assume that special favours are granted to friends/family but it definitely causes resentment. It’s best to have everything handled fairly and transparently. The issue comes up frequently around borrowing money, access to foreign travel and foreign exchange, and around special favours to assist with sick family. Where personal favours are given (e.g. transportation assistance, loans) it should be clearly separated from work.

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Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

It is important that there are well-established guidelines at work places and if there is a problem, it is the guidelines that directs you on what to do. If there is a work-related problem with a colleague, it is important that you bring it to his/her attention immediately. Be upfront but diplomatic and seek a consensus. Agree on a framework to resolve the problem, listen to their view of the problem.

Such issues are best resolved in private in order to avoid public embarrassment. Often you are the last to know that a colleague is having problems with you. Keep your ears to the ground and participate in informal chats at tea/coffee time and lunch time. Important discoveries often emerge at such informal gatherings. Regular meetings to seek suggestions for improvement of both work and social issues at work places help to bring out what is often not said to your face. If you realize that your advice or instructions are not being followed, then that is a first sign that there is a problem brewing. You may want to ask your assistant or secretary what people think about your management style; ask if they are happy.

Canadian Perspective:

Discussions on work-related problems should be private and may need to start somewhat indirectly. Discussions should be respectful and should allow the person to save face. A colleague who is having problems with you will most commonly show it through passive- aggressive behaviour (e.g. nothing gets done), and not by direct discussion.

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Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

Job satisfaction coupled with commensurate salary and sense of belonging and recognition motivates local colleagues.

Canadian Perspective:

Motivating factors would be fear of losing their employment, commitment, opportunities for advancement or education, access to foreign currency, money, job satisfaction, good working conditions, and loyalty.

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Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Recommended books (all available on Amazon): The Zimbabwe Culture: Origins and Decline of Southern Zambezian States, by Innocent Pikirayi and Joseph O. Vogel; Songs to an African Sunset: A Zimbabwean Story, by Sekai Nzenza Shand; The Zimbabwean Culture: Ruins and Reactions, by Gertrude Caton Thompson; and This is Zimbabwe, by Peter Joyce.

Canadian Perspective:

Books: Tsitsi Dangarembga, Nervous Conditions; Dambudzo Marechera, Scrapiron Blues; Zimbabwe Women Writers Anthology; Selected by Robin Malan, No Place Like and other stories by Southern African Women Writers; Edited by Clive and Peggy Kileff, Shona Customs—Essays by African Writers; Yvonne Vera, Under the Tongue, The Stone Virgins, Without a Name, Pub in Zim by Baobab Books; Doris Lessing, African Laughter; Ben Hanson, Takadini; Shimmer Chinodya, Harvest of Thorns; and Anhele’s Daughter (author unknown).

Films: Neria, Yellow Card and other films made or distributed by Media for Development Trust. Also watch for International and African film festivals in Harare.

Food: Sadza (cooked mealie meal or oxtail stew, kapenta (very small fish from Lake Kariba), rape (like spinach), pumpkin leaves with peanut sauce, onions and tomatoes.

Major newspapers online: The Daily News (independent paper, since 1998 approx.) www.dailynews.co.zw; The Financial Gazette (independent paper, since 1960’s) www.fingaz.co.zw; and The Herald (government owned national flagship paper) www.herald.co.zw.

Other current events/alternative perspectives online: www.zwnews.com; SW Radio Africa - In Zimbabwe, tune in to the short-wave broadcast at 6145 KHz in the 49m band. Outside the broadcast area, you can listen to SW Radio Africa over the internet at www.swradioafrica.com. Broadcast times are between 6pm and 9pm Zimbabwe time daily. Kubatana - News and information from the Zimbabwean NGO and CSO sectors. For the Kubatana email newsletter, contact and send request to: nnap@kubatana.org.zw (website: www.kubatana.net).

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Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

The easiest way to learn and appreciate Zimbabwe culture is to establish a friendship with a Zimbabwean who has deep interests in lifestyles in the countryside. Tell him/her that you are interested in learning about the local culture. When locals realize that you are keen on their culture, they are more than welcome to help you through the process. Regular visits over the weekends to rural areas will help. Spending time in local hotels and or bars will not help you learn about the culture, all you get is the local version of Western culture. Local newspapers do list a series of events such as concerts, comedy shows and local cafes where people meet midweek and discuss cultural dynamics in a changing world. There are several drama and musical series on local television. One caveat about learning the culture is that Zimbabwean authorities are extremely sensitive about the photographing of certain locations and buildings, including government offices, airports, military installations, official residences and embassies. Prior written permission must be obtained from the appropriate government office.

Visits to the National Museum, Zimbabwe Ruins (’Zimbabwe’ means a house built of stones), Victoria Falls are strongly recommended.

Canadian Perspective:

In Harare: the Book Café is a good source for entertainment, panel discussions, lectures and food; Theatre in the Park for drama—located in Harare Gardens; cultural events held at the Alliance Francaise, soccer and cricket games. The Zimbabwe-Canada Society is also a good place to link up with both Zimbabweans and Canadians.

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Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

There are a good number of national heroes in Zimbabwe. Prominent ones include Mhunumutapa, Ambuya Kaguvi, Rekayi Tangwena, Herbert Chitepo. These heroes were on the initial forefront of the liberation struggle against white minority rule in the early 1960s. As such, several prominent government buildings were named after these heroes at time of independence. Major city roads were also named after some of the heroes or other African statesmen who helped in the struggle against minority rule. For example, one of the main roads across the city of Harare is named after the late Samora Machel, former President of Mozambique. Two other roads are named after some well respected statesmen like Nelson Mandela (former President of South Africa) and Julius Nyerere (former President of Tanzania). In addition, anyone who participated in the liberation of Zimbabwe from colonial rule qualifies as a national or provincial hero when they die. There is a national shrine called "Heroes Acre" where the declared heroes are buried.

Canadian Perspective:

Traditionally, the heroes have been the war heroes from the war of independence (although the luster is fading!). Oliver Mtukudzi is a well-respected and extremely popular musician who is building an international following. A few religious leaders (e.g. Archbishop Pius Ncube) who have had the courage to speak out.

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Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

Zimbabwe and Canada are both Commonwealth countries (though at the time of writing, Zimbabwe is currently on suspension). Relations remain reasonable under the current political upheavals. Canada is known to have contributed substantially and generously to development projects at the advent of independence. As such, social and work relations remain good.

Canadian Perspective:

Canada has taken a strong stand on the government’s recent record on democracy, good governance, and human rights and this may strain relations with some persons who are close to the government. This has resulted in some restrictions on development aid for Zimbabwe and the cancellation of some projects.

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Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

A Zimbabwean will not be able to tell whether a white person is a Canadian or a Brit, so one should not expect a Zimbabwean to be able to know that he/she is Canadian, unless told. As many people know, beginning 2000, the Zimbabwe government became so negative towards the western world in general because of the land issue. However, the general public who are not involved in the day-to-day politics do not have the same attitude as the government. The general public have no problem with the whites as long as they do not get involved in politics.

Canadian Perspective:

We were certainly told (not by Canadians) that Zimbabweans are unmotivated, dishonest, and unreliable employees. However, this was absolutely not our experience and it did seem to be the case that people got/developed the kind of employees they deserved.

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Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, the second born in a family of five. He was raised in a village in Serima communal area, in the south of Zimbabwe until the age of 14 when he went to boarding school. He trained as a Forester with the Zimbabwe Forestry Commission and subsequently graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Forest Management from the Aberdeen University in the UK and an M.Sc. in Forest Genetics from North Carolina State University in the USA. He has been working for the Zimbabwean Forestry Commission for over 15 years and is currently on study leave pursuing a Ph.D. in Forest Genetics at University of British Columbia. He has one son.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in Saskatchewan, the third of six children. He was raised in southern Ontario and studied international development in the Directed Interdisciplinary Studies Program at Carleton University. His work sent him abroad for the first time in 1991 where he spent one month working on a consultancy in Luanda, Angola and a second month working and travelling in Zimbabwe. Following a number of years working independently and directly for development NGO's, your cultural interpreter went to Zimbabwe in mid-1996, where he lived and worked for six years on a regional AIDS program funded by CIDA. He is currently living in Ottawa with his partner and two children and working as consultant.

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Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.